Piercing the norm

UB students talk about how body piercings add to their personal style


When Jayralin Herrera got her piercings, she needed them to have bilateral symmetry.

Her septum piercing with a blue-jeweled clicker ring shows right beneath her nose and her philtrum piercing lies above her lips. Both lay directly in the center of her face, while her 7/16-inch stretched earlobes on each side balance out her face.

To the sophomore environmental studies major, piercings are a more definitive way of expressing one’s self as opposed to just clothing. Many other UB students use piercings in the same way to highlight their physical features or to make a statement.

Herrera uses her piercings as a way to add color to her all-black wardrobe. Along with her blue highlighted hair, the metal and color from the piercings help her face to stand out against the black clothing, she said.

Jennifer Khong, a senior health and human services major, said her piercings help to bring out her individuality. She has one helix piercing, one lobe earring on each ear and one lip piercing.

“Even if you get piercings, it shouldn’t affect your style, it should just enhance it,” she said.

Non-traditional piercings, likes ones not on the ear, are usually seen as something out of one’s comfort zone, Herrera said. But she feels it’s only because most people don’t see these unconventional piercings enough.

“It’s a jewel in a different area of the body that’s not used to being seen there,” she said. “Because in reality, earrings are accepted easily very socially, but when there’s a facial piercing, there’s a social roadblock. And I feel like it shouldn’t be any different because it’s still a piece of metal piercing the skin.”

Herrera had pierced her septum herself and attempted to do so four times before it was straight – not something professionals recommend doing.

Herrera and Khong have tattoos as well. To them, their tattoos are a step above piercings to define their body.

“A tattoo is a statement of expressing art on ones body as an image, whereas piercings help define parts of your body,” Herrera said.

Dan Chen, a senior occupational therapy major, prefers to have only piercings, rather than tattoos.

Chen has six piercings total. She has three lobe piercings and one cartilage earring on one ear, and a lobe and conch piercing on the other. She said she has briefly thought about getting a tattoo, but only because more of her friends have started to have one.

“I guess for me that is the difference behind a tattoo and a piercing,” she said. “Piercings are less painful and easier to get, but tattoos hurt more and stay with you almost forever unless you go and have it removed. Usually, I think of tattoos as more of a meaning and symbolism action whereas piercings is just for looks.”

Chen previously had nine earrings but has started to let some of the holes from the earrings close up. She said her style is changing because she is “entering the world of careers now.”

“As per any person, I go through phases in my life as well and as my styles change, my taste in what particular earring I would wear also changes,” she said. “Even though it’s nothing big, accessories do bring out your character and earrings are a part of that.”

Betty Li, a senior exercise science major, feels the same way about piercings. While she has five piercings – two on each of her ear lobes and one helix piercing – she only likes to interchange the bottom two on her lobes to match what she wears. She said her earrings help to create a sense of elegance.

Daniel Drexel, a first-year graduate electrical engineering student, said he associates himself with the underground music scene in Buffalo, and piercings help to develop this style for him.

“We like to be individual and exclusive, and dressing a distinct way supports this,” he said. “Be it piercings in the face, black clothing, or T-shirts with violent imagery, it’s all just peoples way of appearing counter culture. Usually because they don’t want to be associated with the norm.”

Drexel has his ears stretched to fit a 4-gauge earring, which is 5 mm in diameter. He also has his right eyebrow pierced and his septum, which he got when he lived in Gothenburg, Sweden. The piercing was a way for Drexel to have a physical memoir of the trip, and it became a gateway to a story of living in Sweden.

Herrera wants to stress how important it is to go to a reputable piercer who listens to exactly what you want and who is hygienic.

“It’s a different form of plastic surgery, altering your body,” Herrera said. “You wouldn’t go to a surgeon that is ‘iffy,’ and you wouldn’t do the same for a piercer.”

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